The estate sale is very distressing for the family, and everyone is in a bad mood. But at tea-time, a visitor comes to see Tom in the study. It is Bob Jakin, the local boy whom Tom had fought with as a child. Tom is at first wary around him, but is touched when Bob offers him nine sovereigns to try to help in the family’s financial struggle. Tom refuses to take his money, but thanks him and shakes his hand. Maggie comes in and is horrified to see that most of the family’s books have been sold. However, she too is touched by Bob’s offer. Although she refuses the money, she tells him that she hopes they will be friends in the future.
Maggie is particularly horrified by the sale of the family’s books, because it represents the increasingly narrowing scope of her ability for intellectual growth and stimulation. In the wake of the family’s bankruptcy, books are considered nonessential. At the same time, however, the kindness of Bob Jakin is a great comfort to Tom and Maggie. This underlines the ability of even a single person’s compassion to make a difference in the lives of those around them. In addition, Bob Jakin’s kindness foreshadows an even greater act of kindness he will do for Maggie and Mrs. Tulliver near the end of the novel, when he generously allows them to live with him.